Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Meeting Mira Nair

Today, I had the privilege of meeting Mira Nair, an acclaimed filmmaker, who has directed films such as Amelia, The Namesake, Mississippi Masala, The Perez Family, Monsoon Wedding and many more. The cozy lecture took place in a conference room inside the Haas Library at Western Connecticut State University. I've been thinking about the lecture all week. I had a feeling I was going to take away some great words of wisdom and advice. I did.

I was asked to ask the first question to get the dialog with Mira flowing. I had no problem with that. I asked a two-part question, the first part was "How she defined success for herself?" My follow-up to that was, "Did success mean different things for female, writers, directors, and producers in Hollywood.

Mira graciously smiled and jumped into her response. She said, "To me, success is privilege of doing what I want to do." As she went into detail I felt a genuine sense of sincerity, her words rang true and came from the heart.

It wasn't your general elevator speech. I did submit my questions earlier in the week, so maybe she had a general idea and prepared some remarks, although I didn't notice her looking at notes. What I took away from her response to the second question was that Hollywood has a built in sexism lens that is very much a part of the studio system. It will forever be there and that you can't let it stop you.However, proceed with caution. According to Mira, one should be humble about what they don't know and speak proudly about what they do know.

Mira is a veteran independent filmmaker, 20 plus years and counting. She gave a lot of nuts and bolts advice that I found valuable in the short time I spent with her. She reminded the group that in order to succeed, one must cultivate their stamina to embrace rejection and with that rejection still have the will to persevere. Constant rejection can be a lot to handle, but time and time again I hear actors, writers, and directors who have received acclaim for their work say it's part of the process. I'm all about the process, cause I have to be.

I'm still freaking out about all the writing that I need to do this month, but Mira's words remind me that success is in doing what I want to do. I'm luckily to have that option and even when the crafts I love challenges me, I'm not ready to throw in the towel.

I just can't give up. Mira thanks for keeping my fire lit.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Back from Aruba and Trying to Get It Done

Hello all,

Yes, I'm back from the sunny shores of Aruba. Boy, was it nice to get away. Dawn and I had a really good time (stay tuned for pictures on my facebook page). The downfall of vacation is that it eventually comes to an end and you have to get back to life as you know it. Now that the week is almost over I'm finally feeling like myself. It's a good thing because a sista has a lot of writing to do.

In less than five weeks I will have to submit my thesis for graduation from Western Connecticut State University's Professional Writing Program (http://www.wcsu.edu/writing/mfa/). I can't believe the end is almost near. It's sort of nerve racking. I would have like to done writing for my spec script while I was on vacation, but I just didn't. I know I only have myself to blame. I did do some reading and some of it was related to scriptwriting so it wasn't a complete loss. Nothing ever is, at least that is what I like to think.

Last night, I had an epiphany as I was reading Ellen Sandler's, The TV Writer's Workbook (if you are interested in writing for television I highly recommend it). I realized that I haven't taken off on the script because my foundation isn't solid. While I've written a treatment, it's not solely focused on Jax, the show's central character. In order for me to move to the next step (my outline then script), I need to get my treatment right and plug the holes. Ellen gave a bunch of tools that I will use this weekend to plug the holes. I feel more confident that I can do this, I know I have to, but I actually believe in myself and I think that is half the battle.

Family, friends, the boyfriend, and all the extra curricular activities I enjoy will have to take the back burner until I finish my thesis. Writing has to be my central focus right now. I apologize in advance, but I have to sacrifice for the greater good which is my future as a screenwriter. It's not going to be easy, but I will take the advise of my thesis advisor, David Rich (a seriously talented screenwriter) that I'm blessed to be working with this semester, "Sit down and write and don't stop until your done." I will. I also want to shout out my other advisor, Leslie Dallas, she's also been a fantastic advisor to me for the past two semesters. Kudos to you both:)

From this point forward no excuses, it's about getting the work done.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Greetings from Aruba

Hello all,

Bon Bini (hello/welcome). Bon Bini is Papiamento, the predominant language in Aruba spoken by the locals. Papiamento and Dutch are the official languages in Aruba. Papiamento is a language that has been evolving through the centuries and absorbed many words from other languages like Dutch, English, diverse African dialects, and most importantly, from Portuguese and Spanish.

Aruba's slogan is "the friendly island," and I can honestly say it is true. The locals make you feel like you're at home. It is very easy to embrace oneself into the culture which is a mix of Dutch, Spanish, Arawak Indian, and African traditions. I find the Spanish and Dutch influence to be the most prominent. Aruba is a desert island, not much grass, but plenty of cactus and palm trees.

So far my vacation has been both relaxing and fun. My only shortcoming has been with my writing for Sons of Anarchy (SOA). I plan to do catch up over the last couple of days here. I've done my morning pages (journal entry) every morning since I arrived, but no work on SOA. I've been to busy exploring and enjoying the island. That will change today.

A couple of days ago I went to a bar/restraurant, called the Black Hog Saloon. The Black Hog is a place that offers a bunch of activities, like minature golf, go-cart racing, riding a mechanical bull (which I did and lasted 8 seconds, applause!!!), plus a bunch of games for couples and adults. It's a place where you can let loose and have good ole time. The decor of the Black Hog is a lot like Friday's or Applebees with signage everywhere, but the signage is all biker oriented. Can you say Harley Davidison? Being there reminded me that, while you're here to enjoy yourself, there is a biker story with your name on it.

The weather has been a sweet 85 -90 degrees during the day and drops to the 70s at night. It is going to be so hard to leave and go back to chilly New England weather. I have a couple days left.....:(, but while I'm here I plan to make the most of it. I'm glad I had an opportunity to check in. Thanks for reading and see you when I get back home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yes, Finally a Vacation, But No Rest for the Writer in Me

I'm finally taking a vacation. At times the day didn't seem like it would ever come, but it is almost here. In four days I will be on a flight to Aruba with my sister Dawn. I've been looking forward to the trip for a year now. Last year, Dawn and my mom went to Aruba. I was a tad bit jealous of them. I really wanted to go but couldn't because I was in the middle of course work for my MFA and in conference prep mode at work. While they were there, Dawn got lucky and one a free-trip for another week at the resort. Dawn took pity on my, since I couldn't join them the first time and invited me to tag a long this time. Thanks sis.

I can already feel the 85 plus degree sun on my chocolate skin. In my mind I'm walking on the beautiful beaches in sandals embracing the laid-back culture where the slogan is "No problem." And even though I know the locals have problems (heck we all do), I can appreciate their attitude that they don't let their problems get the best of them. I see that as one of the strengths in island cultures. Living in a deadline and success driven society is taxing.

Part of me is going to kick back and chill, but the writer in me is not on vacation. I don't think I want her to be either. I know many of you may be thinking all of me should be on vacation, and part of me agrees with those of you who may hold that opinion. However, I have good reasons for why I can't. One, writers should always be reading and writing. I know I get lax when I don't and right now I need and want my writing to be fresh. Two, I'm on deadline for my thesis, which is due in about five or six weeks (not sure at this point). I have finished one script which makes me feel good, but the script still needs to be tweaked to get it at the professional level I need it to be at. Plus, I still have my one-hour spec to write for Sons of Anarchy (SOA) and this is going to demand everything I've got creatively.

I plan to write first thing when I wake up. That will ensure I stay on track. I will set my alarm on my cell phone and free write my morning pages (journal entry) and then focus on my scripts for a couple of hours. I know my mind set is going to want to change once I get off the airplane, but if I plan to stay on track with my writing I can't afford to take the liberty.

I'm glad I got that off my chest. Thanks for tuning in. See you next week from Aruba.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting in Sync

Life is constantly testing us. It can be our friends, our co-workers, school, work, deadlines, etc. I think most people on the planet experience a feeling of inadequacy and frustration at some time or another. I also think the current financial situation: a dire economy, lay-offs that seem never ending, banks and car companies still looking for bailouts, all the while the stock market continues to fall and our 401(k)s lose value faster than we can snap your fingers. It's a mess...a hot mess. Everything seems out of sync.

With so much negativity out in the world it's hard to see the silver lining. I have a couple of friends who are seeing cuts to their benefits and salary. Their managers are telling them they should be happy they are employed. And while that may be true, can it also be said that you should be happy you have an employee who has a strong work ethic and values the contributions they make to your business or organization? Why is it that so many people only see what they can get, rather than what they can give? If everything boils down to a bottom line, I would think companies would access the value an employee brings to an organization and compensate them accordingly. While there needs to be cutbacks, I wonder if a lot of of the cutbacks businesses and government will make are in the places we need them.

I don't profess to have answers, I wish I did, but when everything feels like it is closing in on you I think that is when you have to go against the grain. You have to take a leap of faith and work on the silver lining that isn't there. Make it yourself. It may not always pan out, but ask yourself, "What do I have to lose versus what I can gain?" In life, there will always be some battle to fight. It's just the way it goes. I think it's how we strategize for the battle (getting in sync) and how we execute our plans that makes all the difference in the outcome.